The Duke of Burgundy (2015)

Science can get pretty kinky.

Two lepidopterists, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudson) and Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna), spend a lot of time together. While they both practice bugs and all of that fine stuff, they’re more interested in the BDSM that they practice and who, or who doesn’t, get the chance to take command of the relationship. While Cynthia demands for Evelyn to do stuff, she responds in a way that’s calculated, and leads her to, sometimes, getting punished. On the other hand, however, Evelyn isn’t really upset with this; she, like Cynthia finds this fun, hot and something new to play around with, until it gets to be too much for both involved. However, what ultimately ends up happening is that, over time, Evelyn and Cynthia start to grow jealous of one another and clash heads a bit. While Cynthia is fine with taking absolute control in the bed and in the relationship, Evelyn is now starting to lean more towards something of a natural relationship where woman hold and love another, rather than sitting on each other’s faces and doing all sorts of other odd stuff.

Something as odd and bizarre as the Duke of Burgundy should be a whole lot more exciting than what it actually turns out to be. For one, writer/director Peter Strickland seems to be taking a very serious, very intimate look at two women participating in a BDSM relationship that can sometimes test them to their limitations. But then again, it’s very hard to do that with what eventually happens here, and yet, try to make sure that no people start cracking up.

Gotta always get prepared and dollied up for the night's wild proceedings.
Gotta always get prepared and dollied up for the night’s wild proceedings.

Because, honestly, when you have a movie where one character pees into another character’s mouth as a source of punishment for not cleaning out one’s panties, it’s pretty hard not to crack up.

But that’s what’s sort of strange about Strickland – he is so drop dead serious, that you almost have to go along with it. While it’s easy to be the most immature kid watching at home, there’s also a time and place for when one has to grow up a bit and realize that bodily fluids and sexual desires are just another part of daily human lives. Strickland knows this, sees this, and understands this, and because of that, he wants us to pay attention, as well.

And it’s very hard not to pay attention to what’s going on, if only because of all the sorts of fun role-playing that occurs here. However, whereas a movie like Fifty Shades of Grey gives the audience a plethora of scenes where its two characters are just having a bunch of fun, wacky and wild sex with one another, and leaving it at that, Strickland takes it one step further. In a way, Strickland actually wants us to get to know these characters and exactly what this BDSM relationship does to them as a whole.

While one person may have the most control on what happens, and doesn’t happen while in between the sheets, they may not have the same power or control when it comes to the actual relationship itself. That’s what happens here with Cynthia and Evelyn here, and while I won’t give whom it is in which position, I will say that it’s an interesting look at how quickly and drastically control can shift in a relationship, no matter how loving or miserable it is. If one person wants something better, and the other person knows that, it’ll most definitely take a toll; not just on one person, but the both of them.

And as Evelyn and Cynthia, both Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Knudson put in good work here, showing that both characters have complex needs, wants and pleasures that make them more compelling to watch, no matter what they’re doing. While it’s easy for some to get wrapped up in all of the sex games that they play with one another, the smaller, more subdued moments are what seem the most telling as we truly get to see what it is that they feel at that exact moment.

But, then again, there’s this problem that I continue to have with this movie where it feels like Strickland drops the ball a bit, especially in the last-half.

Yeah, science!
Yeah, science!

Somehow, somewhere, Strickland got a bit too ahead of himself. Even after having a solid first-two halves, Strickland loses a lot of focus and starts to get really strange, but in ways that aren’t very appealing. Not because, once again, they feature these two female characters doing odd things, but because the movie forgets that in order to make a lot of what happens, the focus has to be on the characters. They don’t have to be the most likable human specimens on the face of the planet, but they just need to have some sort of compelling aspects to their personalities that make them so worth getting invested in in the first place.

Here, Strickland loses that idea in his head and instead, starts throwing sheer craziness at us like an imaginative dream into one character’s vagina. You heard me right, people. No typo whatsoever. There is literally a sequence in which Strickland constantly puts his zoom in on a character’s vagina and we continue to go in and in, until, for some odd reason, bugs start flying all over the place. Have no clue what it means, really, but neither do I think Strickland does either; he’s just going along with the wacky flow and seeing who he can keep interested next.

And, well, job relatively accomplished.

Consensus: Without a sharp focus, the Duke of Burgundy isn’t as compelling it should be, despite the two solid performances and shocking scenes that occur through the run-time.

6 / 10

"Madam. Please be ready. I need somewhere to sit."
“Madam. Please be ready. I need somewhere to sit.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire



  1. I never realized that the vagina was so much like the Star Gate sequence in 2001.

    I liked this one a lot, actually, although I’m not really sure I “got” it. It was pretty and I loved the score.

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